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India voted as worst place to be a woman

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Rachel Ogbu
WVoN co-editor

Child marriage and slavery are two of the factors that make India the worst place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies.

The survey of 370 gender specialists found Canada to be the best place to be a woman amongst G20 nations, excluding the European Union economic grouping.

Saudi Arabia was the second worst, after India.

The poll, released ahead of a summit of G20 heads of state to be held in Mexico next week, showed the reality for many women remains grim despite the introduction of laws and treaties on women’s rights, the experts said.

Gulshun Rehman, health programme development adviser at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled said women and girls in India continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour.

“It’s a miracle a woman survives in India. As a child, she faces abuse, rape and early marriage and even when she marries, she is killed for dowry.

“If she survives all of this, as a widow she is discriminated against and given no rights over inheritance or property,” said Shemeer Padinzjharedil, who runs Maps4aid.com, a website which maps and documents crimes against women.

Many of the crimes against women are in India’s heavily populated northern plains, where, in parts, there is a deep-rooted mindset that women are inferior and must be restricted to being homemakers and child bearers.

In addition, age-old customs such as payment of hefty dowries at the time of marriage and beliefs linking women’s sexual behaviour to family honour have added to the perception that women are second class citizens.

Saudi Arabia – where women are well educated but are banned from driving and only won the right to vote in 2011 – polled second-worst after India, followed by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico.

The poll asked aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues to rank the 19 countries of the G20 in terms of the overall best and worst to be a woman.

“Having an understanding of Canadian culture and tracking the work they’re doing around violence against women and gender equality, I believe that Canada really has been emerging as a model for what most countries should aspire to for a long time,” said Jimmie Briggs, journalist, author and founder of the Man Up Campaign that works to engage youth to stop violence against women and girls.

The same poll concluded that Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the group of 20.

The United States came in sixth but polarised opinion due to concerns about reproductive rights and affordable healthcare.

Respondents were from 63 countries on five continents and included experts from UN Women, the International Rescue Committee, Plan International, Amnesty USA and Oxfam International, as well as prominent academic institutions and campaigning organisations. Representatives of faith-based organisations were also surveyed.

How they ranked:

1 Canada; 2 Germany; 3 Britain; 4 Australia; 5 France; 6 United States; 7 Japan; 8 Italy; 9 Argentina; 10 South Korea; 11 Brazil; 12 Turkey; 13 Russia; 14 China; 15 Mexico; 16 South Africa; 17 Indonesia; 18 Saudi Arabia; 19 India.

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